Google Plus and Google Places for Local Businesses

We all know that Google has some pretty nifty tools that are useful for our businesses. Using these tools help us show up higher in search results, especially local listings. And for that, we can always be grateful. But let’s be honest, sometimes Google moves in mysterious ways that can leave even the most savvy of businesses scratching their heads.

Google has been all over the place during the last year with changes to how businesses are ranked in local listings, Maps and Google Plus, and it’s still a mess.

Originally, a local business could list themselves on Google Maps using Google Places. After the launch of Google Plus, Google went the social networking route giving us the option to create social pages for businesses on Google Plus, called Google Plus for businesses.

Next, Google had the idea to combine the map listings aspects of Google Places with the social aspects of Google Plus. But the process wasn’t quite ready. What we got was a new look and feel to our Google Places pages, and a new name too: Google Plus Local.

Are you still with me? Confused? I was. But don’t worry, we’ll untangle it together.

What’s the Difference Anyway?

Google Plus for Business

Think of this page as a Facebook business page. As previously mentioned, your Google Plus for Businesses page has all the features of a social networking site. To get started, you will first need to set up a personal Google Plus account. For a guide on setting up and managing your Google Plus account, check out Getting Started with Google Plus.

For your business account, keep these tips in mind:

  • Give as much information as possible. Your business name, address, and phone number are obviously important to include. But including your hours, a description of your business, and photos is helpful. Also remember to fill out your business category for proper indexing.

  • Make sure it all matches! This one is very important. Make sure your address and phone numbers display the same way on your Google pages and your website. Google will rank you higher the more your address is on the web.  It is also very important that the name you use for your businesses matches on what is on your website and on signs outside your business. Google moderators have been known to double check addresses and phone numbers to make sure everything matches.

  • No P.O. Boxes or UPS Stores. Google may delete pages without real addresses. If you must use a P.O. Box, check out Google’s guidelines about the issue.

  • Go public. Setting your profile to “public” allows for increased visibility which is always a good thing.

  • Remember, like any social page, make sure you keep this page updated as frequently as possible.

Google Places for Businesses aka Google Plus Local

Think of this page as your Google Maps listing. Listing your business on Google Places is one of the simplest ways to get your business ranked in Google Search. Getting started is easy.

  • Start here and the rest is pretty simple. Fill in the details (remember: make sure everything matches!) and add your business.

  • Next, you’ll be asked to verify your business. You’ll need to verify by mail so Google knows that you’re business really is where you say it is. You’ll receive a postcard with a PIN number that you’ll need to complete the verification process. You can either do this right away or skip it and come back, but you will have to verify eventually.

  • Finally, you will need to fill out information about your listing. In this final section, there are several parts. You’ll navigate using the options on the sidebar and start filling information in.

  • Multiple locations? No problem. You can set up additional locations under the same Google account.

Combining Google Places and Google Plus

Ok, you have your Google Places page all set up, and you’re rockin’ and rollin’ with your Google Plus account. If you don’t feel like managing both, Google has kindly given us the option to combine our pages. But before you go off and start linking them it’s important to note that you do not have to combine your pages. Doing so won’t necessarily improve your ranking, but it doesn’t make managing accounts easier.

Keep in mind that you have to have a Google Plus Business page first before you can start the process of combining it with Google Places. However– it may be best to combine them so you can forget the whole mess of trying to keep it all straight! And that way, you’re ready for whatever they throw at us next!